Trish Hamilton writes:
Reading Michael Fullilove's post about Burmese Days reminded me of another book which, though it was published in 1971, to my shame, I first read in 2012. I would strongly recommend Barbara W Tuchman's Stillwell and the American Experience in China to anyone interested in Burma's recent re-emergence as a regional player.
Tuchman's fascinating history covers many decades of US-China relations and necessarily includes an in-depth account of Joseph Stillwell's critical involvement in Burma during World War Two. Burma was seen by the US as the only door to eventual entry of US forces (in cooperation with Kuomintang troops) overland into southern China, from where it was hoped to launch a direct attack on Japan proper.
Burma thus became a valuable pawn in the larger geostrategic game the US was playing at the time: to bring the war to an end as soon as possible and, by supporting the Nationalists to oust the Japanese, enable Chiang Kai-Shek to unite China and defeat Mao Tse-Tung's beleaguered Communists once and for all; that is, to 'save' China as an abiding friend and ally of the US.
As we all know, ultimately none of this happened, for a variety of reasons (and with many a slip twixt cup and lip in between), all of which makes for a totally riveting read. Perhaps Burma's time has come once again?
Finally (and not to push my luck here) but for anyone wanting a quick primer on Communist China (and, for that matter, for anyone who actually knows quite a bit about China but thinks they could always learn more) a must read is China in Ten Words by the much-acclaimed Chinese novelist, Yu Hua. The chapters can be read in any order. Start with 'Revolution' or 'Copycat' for some revelations. It's a blast!
Happy New Year to all at the Lowy!